Chests have early origins all the way back to the Egyptian Era and Middle Ages. During those times, chests were mainly portable storage devices that contained the goods of a whole family. Sometimes, these pieces of furniture were the only ones a family could afford to possess. Hence, they served multiple purposes, doubling up as a chair or table.
However, things changed during the 18th and 19th centuries. Cedar chests became indispensable pieces of furniture in bedrooms. Due to the characteristic scent of cedar, chests were used to keep insects and moths away from beddings. Additionally, the unique qualities of cedar made fabrics smoother and more pleasant to the touch.
As the years passed and society evolved, these cedar chests took on an even more specific purpose. When a young lady approached marriage age, her family offered her a chest with all kinds of items that contributed to the wealth of her marriage. Ultimately, a bride’s chest was named a “hope chest”, standing for the things she will carry to support her marriage.
Therefore, those who manage to discover a unique cedar chest manufactured before the 20th century are incredibly lucky. If you are fortunate enough to come across these kinds of pieces, you might sell them for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
But how do you know if the cedar chest you passed by is precious and rare or just a cheap replica? This identification guide will help you learn to identify and determine the value of an antique cedar chest.
Confirming A Cedar Chest’s Antiquity: Main Steps
Now that you want to become familiar with identifying an antique cedar chest, it’s time to get into the details. So how can you tell if a cedar chest is a fake or a reproduction that looks almost perfect?
Unfortunately, even some experienced sellers might get bumped by these scams. So these are the principal distinguishing features that will help you recognize an antique cedar chest and make a wise purchase:
The first and easy way to determine whether a cedar chest is antique is by its origins and manufacturer. The manufacturer’s visible signature is the first clue about origins. Many furniture manufacturers produced antique cedar chests, so there are high chances of finding engravings, signatures, or trademarks on these items.
The following names are the most popular cedar chest manufacturers (especially during the 1900s):
- The Lane Company
- Cavalier of Chattanooga
- Caswell-Runyan in Huntington
- Ed Roos of Forest Parl
2. Wood Details
Before buying an antique cedar chest, it is wise to check the different wood components and see if the same manufacturer has signed them. Do they have the same features and details? Most fake models have mismatched woods at the top and bottom.
All the metal parts and hinges of cedar chests are helpful features to pinpoint whether the furniture is authentic or not. The original ones are made with pure wrought iron most of the time. So start analyzing each metal feature to look for imperfections which are a tell-tale sign of wrought iron.
Another critical fact you should focus on is the dovetails. Dovetailing refers to the connection joints of two perpendicular angles. Since many antique cedar chests have been handmade, you should be able to detect giveaway flaws in the handiwork.
4. Worn-Out Lines/ Possible Cracks
One significant sign of old pieces (and possibly something to worry about) is the cracks. These worn-out lines represent the patina of time and evidence of consistent use of that piece of furniture during a particular period.
Although antique cedar chests are more than 100 years old, the highest quality and best preserved pieces may not have any cracks.
You do not need to be an expert to find fine cracks and lines. Make sure you look carefully at the surfaces, as well as on the inside.
How To Market Value Antique Cedar Chests?
To estimate the market value of an antique cedar chest, you need to focus on some critical factors. Combine these points to make a best estimate of the potential market value.
This is what impacts the value of an antique cedar chest:
1. Manufacturer’s Mark
Antique cedar chest manufacturers used to mark their products in different ways on particular areas of the furniture. They used a metal tag, a stamp, or a brass plate. You may consider yourself lucky when you find this information, as you can easily value the item. Keep in mind that:
- When manufacturers started producing similar furniture pieces, markings were very discreet. Therefore, you may need to check them in-depth and look for those areas out of sight like underneath the lid and on the bottom of the chest.
- Companies, such as Ed Roos, preferred to vary their manufacturing marks. For instance, some pieces display their unique rooster symbol with the “Original” pattern while others are marked differently with a tree or a love heart symbol.
- On the other hand, companies like Lane have a small brass platemark visible.
Most antique cedar chests have a specific serial number stamped or engraved on the surface somewhere. Keep in mind this interesting fact: serial number is most of the time read backwards (from right to left). Consequently, these six digits reflect the day, month, and year they were manufactured.
Sometimes, there might be an extra number seen above. This is usually the indicator of the factory site that manufactured the antique chest. If you own an antique cedar chest that was manufactured between the 1920s and 1930s, you might be lucky enough to hold a valuable vintage piece.
A great way to know the value of an antique cedar chest is by checking the craftsmanship used to fix all the parts. If you notice that dovetail joints are perfectly aligned and fixed, they might be machine-produced.
On the other hand, rough and uneven cut joints are a of hand-crafted pieces. Hence this furniture will be higher priced.
Pay attention to the condition of your antique cedar chest. Can you see any scratches? Maybe there are some missing pieces or worn-out cedar? All these flaws might lessen the value of your antique cedar chest when compared to furniture in better condition.
Make sure you examine if the chest has been repainted or re-stained. Are there any other adaptations? If the answer is yes, the value will be lower. Some unique models of cedar chests come with upholstery and stuffing, a genuine sign of their origins.
5. Styles And Shapes
Different manufacturers made cedar chests based on different shapes and styles. Therefore, the most common ones and appreciated were these styles:
Traditional Cedar Chest
Famous manufacturers first started making the traditional cedar chests during the 1920s. These chests had the basic hinged top that was easy to lock and unlock with a key. These producers often used cedar to build the chest’s inner sections. However, they used other materials, too. For instance, for the exterior parts, they used materials such as walnut and cherry. Sometimes, the traditional cedar chests were enhanced with detailed carvings that gave a unique look.
Art Deco Cedar Chest
The Lane Company, one of the most popular manufacturers back in the day, used to manufacture cedar chests in the Chippendale and Art Deco styles. This happened between the 1930s and 1940s so these chests are considered vintage rather than antique. These chests had different decorations, with appealing geometric shapes in inlay regions.
Some models even have some tiny boxes placed on shelves inside the chest for storage purposes. If you are lucky enough to own a Chippendale-style antique cedar chest, you should take some time to observe the ornate carvings. They are simply outstanding.
Mid Century and Danish Modern Style
Between the mid-1940s and late 1960s, manufacturers were producing cedar chests in Modern Danish style, so these chests are also considered vintage rather than antique. The aesthetics of these models were much cleaner and with angular shapes. Sometimes, the manufacturers added other features like drawers, upholstery, and a rare Tuxedo-style.
It is safe to say that this design has a more industrial look, with distinctive wood stains.
What is clear is that a hand-painted chest made in the 1920s is more valuable than a single-lid chest produced in the 1970s.
Learn more from this comprehensive video guide.
6. Safety Locks
When trying to establish the value of an antique cedar chest, safety locks are an essential factor to consider. Chests produced just before the late 1980s have this unique feature: a lock that could secure automatically when the lid shuts.
Unfortunately, this type of locker had led to some tragic situations, when some children locked themselves inside and suffocated.
Therefore, companies had to look for a replacement for these locks for safety reasons. Some people preferred to take out the locks; 6 million of the 12 million cedar chests made within that specific timeframe did not have safety locks installed.
If you just bought an antique cedar chest with the original locker (the one with the standard catch-and-shut lock), it is wise to exchange the locker or remove it for safety reasons.
Generally speaking, an antique cedar chest may value, somewhere between $99 to $400. However, if you deal with rare and unique models, the price can range higher than $700. This is especially true if the cedar chest comes with the original hardwares and is in excellent condition. Yet, it might be tricky to value your antique cedar chest at first glance. Therefore, calling for the services of an expert appraiser is wiser.
Tips To Evaluate A Cedar Chest Yourself
Suppose you are a new collector and a relative novice in this domain. In that case, identifying the maker of a cedar chest might be pretty challenging. Luckily for you, there is enough information online to help you out. The clues provided by the cedar chest maker are essential for those who wish to sell or buy an antique cedar chest.
First of all, you should keep in mind that you should never get discouraged when searching for the origins of a cedar chest. Sometimes, you just need to find the right person to tell you more.
Pay attention to the cedar chest mark or company name. When it comes to the antique chest or newer high-quality models, these marks are usually either burned or stamped onto the wood. A few may have a paper tag instead. When it comes to more contemporary chests, they come with the manufacturer’s sticker.
The name or mark of the brand would usually be located on the underside of the lid. Sometimes, you may find this information inside the chest or even on the bottom of the piece.
Take advantage of digital technology and photograph the chest. Make sure you catch all the angles of the piece and all the various components of the chest.
Make sure you take photos of the feet, decorative details, the interior compartments, and all the possible distinguishing elements like handles, latches, or hinges. Do not forget about carvings and embellishments.
Check for similar cedar chests. You are likely to find information about the maker, as well as the age of your furniture.
You can also ask for information about the maker directly from the seller if this is not included in the product’s description.
Post your photos on free antique appraisal sites or forums. These sites feature message boards where you can upload your photos and request information from the users.
Start writing down all the names of makers you found on these forums or websites. You may also use your browser’s bookmark feature to save the most helpful pages for future reference.
This way, you can always check the possible replies to forum posts or messages concerning the manufacturers you are interested in.
Ask The Professionals
If you need more help, you can bring the chest or some very detailed photos to an antique appraiser who has expertise in antique and vintage furniture. You can visit local appraisers or call them to gain more information.
Bear in mind you might need to pay for the appraisal.
Where To Buy And Sell Antique Cedar Chests?
Suppose you are new to the antique marketplace and have little experience buying and selling antiques. In that case, you may start with mainstream online platforms. Here is what we recommend:
Best when it comes to unique and customised antique cedar chests
Best for great deals
Best when it comes to antique cedar chest replicas
While Etsy and eBay are excellent sources for authentic antiques, Amazon has great deals for newer or already used replicas. Make sure you check the seller reputation first before making the purchase.
Last But Not Least
Antique cedar chests are not only superb pieces, but their versatility in modern times is also something to appreciate. However, you should pay attention to where you purchase this antique furniture from.
Reproduction is common nowadays, so pay attention to replicas. If you are still confused about antiques, do not hesitate to consult a professional for the best advice. Don’t forget that there are multiple online antique sites and communities willing to help you out.